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Into the open: dancing on stage and in the auditorium

A dance concert with a standing audience promises to be something new. Because how often does it happen that in the audience, whipped up by music and dance, you have to sit on your hands. This sounds like the outcome! We get to watch and move ourselves to Krautrock, mixed with trance-like repetitive parts. Lisbeth Gruwez and Maarten van Cauwenberghe invite us to dance and rock off two miserable Corona years in their twelfth production together as Voetvolk.

Four dancers and three musicians take the stage. Dendermonde plays solid rock, with van Cauwenberghe on bass and Elko Blijweert on guitar. Frederik Heuvinck goes wild like a beast on his raised drum stage. Music is not secondary or illustrative in Into the Open. On the contrary: the music determines what happens. The moves come from the rock scene: headbanging becomes an aesthetic party with long hair. Dancers and musicians engage in a dialogue, attracting and repelling, flirting and rejecting. It reminds me of summer festivals, Rock Werchter where I was as an 18-year-old, Lowlands. Being absorbed in the music, feeling every note in your body.

Rock concerts as rituals

Crowdsurfing, but slower and orchestrated, giving it a ritualistic charge. This dance concert is one that reflects on what it is to be a concert. What do the musicians do, how do you play the audience, and how do you behave as an audience? Footy deconstructs the arrangements, but makes a party out of it. All the ritual movements of the rock show come by, with short dance solos where real krautrock has endless guitar solos.

What is it like to stand and watch dance and music for an hour, does it really provide a different experience? To put it to the test, I divide the dance concert into three parts for myself: standing at the front, walking around with a beer, dancing along.
The audience clearly needs to settle in, after two years without shows. The average age is a lot higher than usual in the Melkweg, and dance audiences are not used to joining in themselves. It gets off to a somewhat cautious start. A t-shirt torn off my body and thrown into the hall remains on the floor behind me. Hands come together only with difficulty. Here and there, some people move eagerly along, but there is no sort of festival or concert atmosphere yet. We are a bit rusty, but loosen up pretty quickly.

Little experiment with n=1

In my second part, I decide to do what I usually do at concerts: walk around, get a beer, see who else is there. This is an experience as alienating as it is liberating. Is that allowed, isn't that disrespectful when people are performing? With my beer, I sit on an edge for a while, to see if that feels different from standing. After a few minutes of sitting watching, I feel less engaged with the music and the dance. Soon I stand again. The audience picks up steam. Fingers are whistled, danced, responded to.

In the last 20 minutes, I rocked along with the music and those were the tastiest minutes. The music thundered on, and we thundered along. While the roles of dancer and musician were already diffuse, now they are dissolved. The guitarist dances, hushed, beautiful. The dancer drums. Why even draw a line between two disciplines that cannot exist without each other.

During the encore (wait, an encore in dance?), three of the dancers come off stage to give the audience an extra boost. Dance as pure joie de vivre. It might be more subtle, but it doesn't get much more delicious.

Good to know Good to know
Seen at Julidans, 15 July at Melkweg, Amsterdam

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Helen Westerik

Helen Westerik is a film historian and great lover of experimental films. She teaches film history and researches the body in art.View Author posts

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